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Top 10 Problems to Avoid When Looking for a Guitar Instructor
Home Arts & Entertainment Books & Music
By: Matteo Miller-nicolato Email Article
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Many new students will look for the cheapest, or most expensive teacher, or will try to match their style of music to their teacher's style or specialization. Most guitar players base their decision on either price, or skill level, or what style of music the teacher likes or which style they specialize in teaching.

All those things ARE important, but they're really not the best guidelines to follow when you want to find the best teacher for you. If you make the wrong decision choosing a guitar teacher, you will unquestionably waste a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of effort. In fact, I spend a lot of my time "correcting" problems and wrong beliefs that my students have gotten from other guitar teachers in the past.

Here is a list of the most important things you need to know before you get a guitar teacher: The teacher doesnít really CARE about you as a person. Most guitar teachers just ask a few questions like "What kind of music do you like," "What can you play right now," "What song do you want to learn," and then just start teaching without any other information about you. This is a big problem because then theyíre just teaching on auto-pilot and wonít really put all their effort into helping you get the biggest results possible. Be sure your teacher tries to be at least a little more like a friend to you, rather than say "Hereís some information, kid. Learn it, and go home.

2. The teacher is burned out from too much teaching. This is a big problem, which makes the first issue above even worse. When the teacher doesn't care, it's most likely because he or she just has too many students to handle. The problem with most teachers is they donít have an effective system to teach a large number of students. I personally know teachers that have over a hundred students, yet still have plenty of time to enjoy their evenings and weekends. Ask your teacher how many hours they teach during the week, and you will know from what they tell you whether they are burned out or not.

3. The teacher doesnít know your short-term and long-term goals. This issue is pretty obvious, because really, how can you learn to play guitar how you want if the teacher doesnít even know what you want from learning and playing guitar? They might teach you all sorts of great stuff, but how do they know whether itís actually relevant to what YOU want to be able to do as a guitar player? The teacher MUST know your goals, and should have effective strategies to help you reach those goals as quickly as possible.

4. The teacher doesnít have a way to track your progress. You WILL notice some improvement even if it's not being measured. However, tracking progress in ALL areas of your guitar playing is important, because sometimes you will make more progress in some areas than others. For example, you might build speed very quickly, but your improvising or songwriting skills may not be getting better at all. Having an effective system to track your progress is going to help find weaknesses in your playing, and/or weaknesses in your practicing habits, and/or weaknesses in the teaching methods.

5. The teacher teaches straight from a book. Okay, I admit that sometimes I teach things out of a book. However, thatís by no means the only thing I do, and should definitely not be what your teacher should be doing. Books are fine, but the only thing they offer is information, AND everything is always presented in the exact same order. This is a big problem because no two students are the exact same, so teaching them the same things in the same order may help one, but not the other! The order in which things are taught plays a big part in reaching your goals in the least amount of time! So, itís fine if your teacher pulls things out of a book, but there should be much more than just book-reading going on in your lessons.

6. The teacher keeps teaching you new things, all the time. One of the biggest misconceptions about teachers and teaching is that we are only here to pass along new information to you. That is totally, absolutely wrong, and will in fact hurt your progress more than help you. New information feeds our brains temporarily with cool ideas, but it also poses problems. You may not be ready for the information, and will open up a whole new set of questions and divert you from your path to reaching your goals in the fastest way. You need to take the time to go through a special process to actually be able to use the skills you learn in your guitar playing, your songwriting, your improvisingÖor you may learn things and even master things without even ever being able to use them! That means you won't really have learned anything at all! This concept is illustrated by the quote "Knowledge is not power, but rather application of knowledge is power."

7. The tuition for lessons is surprisingly low. Most of the time, when a teacher charges a very small sum for his or her services, it generally means that teacher is inexperienced. Just like with everything else, you get what you pay for. As you can probably tell by now, all teachers are not alike. If your teacher is cheap, then just like fast-food, your lessons will be lacking in substance, flavor, and nutrients. You want to be sure that youíre getting the value for your money, but you can tell if you are by being aware of the other problems I have already mentioned. You may spend less money per lesson, but actually in the long-run you would spend MORE money to learn what another teacher who is better can help you learn in less time. Like I said before, I have to "fix" $10 guitar lessons.

8. The teacher doesnít have testimonials from his or her students. This is low on the list because some teachers donít actually know that this is important. Thatís okay because you can simply ask the teacher for references of either music stores theyíve taught in, or their previous or current students to ask whether they are a good teacher. Getting another person's opinion on a teacher is very important!

9. The teacher hasnít written any music. Your teacher doesnít have to be a virtuoso to get you serious results. But they DO need to know how to write music. Sure, they can probably give you a few tips, but if you want to be able to write your own music, your teacher needs to know how to do that before they can help you! Try to see if you can find sample music by your teacher, or ask him to play a song theyíve written for you. Again, they donít have to be the best guitar player in the world (though it helps!) but they should be able to do more than just play cover songs.

10. The teacher is self-taught or hasnít gotten serious training. If your teacher hasnít had a really good teacher to show them not only how to play guitar correctly, but also how to teach, then you may end up with some very serious problems. Like many of the free things you find on the internet, you could learn things that are totally wrong, or at least not very effective. Your teacher doesnít have to have a music degree, but they do need real, professional education from a great guitar teacher. Actually, most teachers never even learn "how to teach guitar," so they learn entirely from a long time of personal experience.

Now that you know the top 10 problems with choosing a guitar teacher, you will have a template for which to choose a good teacher that is right for you. If you agree with the points mentioned above, then you and I are probably a good fit together, because I donít make any of the mistakes above. Go to San Diego Guitar Lessons and and get a FREE private guitar lesson today!

Matteo Miller-Nicolato writes Progressive Punk-Metal-Jazz Fusion music and teaches guitar in San Diego, CA. Currently he is collaborating with several other musicians from around the world to develop a compilation CD to be distributed worldwide. He is also recording his first professional record to be released in 2012.

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